Skinny Pete

I was out for a walk with my son the other evening. Truth be told, it wasn’t just a leisurely walk; we were taking out the garbage, and in our neighborhood, “taking out the garbage” means walking it a quarter mile to the dumpster in our condo complex. In the summer, I prefer to walk the short distance rather than drive.

It was a beautiful night with a slight breeze, and even though it was just after 8:00, it was already quite dark. A couple walking their dog appeared out of the darkness like a grainy photograph in a pan of developer.

The dog was friendly and came over for a sniff and a greeting. I pet her quickly on my way by. “She always has to get her greeting,” her owner said from well within the shroud of the evening darkness.

“I have a cat like that,” I told them. “Perhaps you’ve met him. Black and white… very friendly? He’ll come right up to you and say hi,” I informed them.

“Oh, sounds like Skinny Pete!” they both said.

“Oh, you have met him! He has a bit of a reputation in the neighborhood. He’s cute and friendly, a bit of a pest, but he keeps the chipmunks at bay,” I informed them. “His name is Poto.”

“We call him Skinny Pete,” they returned. “We have a cat at home that looks just like him, but he’s fatter.” Interesting, I thought, that they would refer to my cat as skinny. “But now we know his name, at least.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries before we ambled down the walkway to complete our dumpster run.

“The cat knows more of the neighbors than we do,” my son said, matter-of-factly.

“It’s kind of sad,” I replied. “When the cat has a more active and exciting social life than we do.”

When Aliens Move In

I was having a conversation with my neighbor recently, and midway through our discussion, she said, “Was your son home the other day? I said ‘hi’ to him, but then I wasn’t quite sure it was really him. I thought it was, but he’s changed so much….” Her voice trailed off.

I get it. We have lived in our neighborhood for the past 13+ years, and the kids were very, very little when we moved in. Now, they are hovering on adulthood, driving, working. They have grown from knee-high to taller than Mama. Their schedules are busy, and they don’t cross paths with the neighbors as much as they used to. So it doesn’t surprise me that recognizing them might be a challenge.

There is this subtle change that all kids experience on their journey from childhood to adulthood. But then there is the not-so-subtle change when they are suddenly much more adult than they were yesterday; one day—quite suddenly—they almost seem to be different people altogether.

It usually happens after a feeding-frenzy when they have somehow managed to consume every edible morsel in the house. They go to bed and the next day, or the next week, they wake up, come into the kitchen for breakfast, and you think, Is that really my child at the table? As you look at said child, you notice that the face is more angular; the shoulders are a bit broader; the voice is deeper and the vocabulary is more mature; moods and attitudes vary from moment to moment; and wait… my child would never have worn those clothes yesterday. Where did he even get that outfit? You rack your brain trying to remember if you purchased that shirt, or from whom he might have borrowed it.

As you begin to get used to this taller, louder, hungrier being that now inhabits your home, you simultaneously start to wonder what happened to your child. Where is the child who—just yesterday—was climbing trees and catching frogs? Where is the child who cuddled up next to you while you read bedtime stories? Where is the little one would get up from a Lego-building session and come into the kitchen for a hug?

In fact, I will admit that last summer, I dropped my son at camp, as I had every year for several years. A week later, when I went to pick him up, I could not find him in amongst the crowd of boys all dressed alike. I even spotted him at one point, only to continue scanning the crowd because that kid just didn’t look like my kid. Seriously. My own kid.

And then there was the day over the last year when I called home on my commute from work. A man answered the phone and my heartbeat quickened. WHO IS THIS?? I almost screamed, but then I heard a lilt that I recognized in the strange male voice. Oh, wait…. Perhaps this is the new voice of my kid…?

It’s been a process, but I’m beginning to get used to the new kids who share my house with me. Because with these new kids come some unexpected adventures and new idiosyncrasies. These new kids help each other, they work together, they brainstorm solutions to their own problems, they have goals and dreams, and through their daily experiences, they are developing the grit to reach the goals they set for themselves.

And every now and then, I know they are the same children who have always lived here. When I am really lucky, one of them will come into the kitchen and surprise me with a spontaneous hug.

Mack’s Mingle & Jingle

Mack is hosting a great meet and greet, a holiday Mingle & Jingle, on her site. You can find the party here: https://mackmarie.com/2016/12/06/mingle-jingle/

She has some great holiday treats (complete with recipes) and music. Come on over and join the party!

Leaves

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Friday was a windy day. As we say in New England, it was wicked windy! All afternoon, I watched from the window of my basement office as the leaves swirled in the sky above me. Then again, being in the basement, pretty much everything was above me.

But with all the wind and the drop in temperature, things had taken an interesting turn back at home. The leaves in the area had been cleaned up just about a week ago, but they always do the “fall clean up” just a little too early. As happens every year, when the wind starts blowing, all the leaves that remain on the ground, on the trees, and pretty much in the entire neighborhood, collect right in front of my house. Every year. It has something to do with the way the townhouses are staggered and the fact that mine is set back from the ones on either side, I suppose. The alcove by my front door is the perfect repository for the residual leaves.

By the time I got home–with the recent time change–it was dark out. And seeing as I am a creative person, I have an over active imagination in the daylight. So when I arrived home (in the dark) and approached my front door, I was well aware that the leaves that were mounded in front of my steps were the perfect size and shape to be hiding a body. Or a live person who might jump out at me. Granted, said person would have to be lying flat, and would have to stay very still, but it was possible. Anything is possible.

I pushed the thought out of my mind and walked quickly to the front door, carefully stepping over the leaves rather than in them, as I do in the daylight.

The next morning, I told this story to my daughter. “I thought the same thing!” she exclaimed. We creative minds think alike. Then again, in this neighborhood (and with my neighbors), there is no telling what might be hiding under a pile of leaves in the dark.

On a positive note, because the wind brought all of the remaining leaves in the neighborhood to my front door, my back deck is now leaf-free!

Good Fence/Bad Fence

As poet Robert Frost writes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In New England, there is much evidence of good fences in the miles of rock walls that amble over hills and through meadows in their forgotten quest to separate the farms of yesteryear. As I look at these walls, I can see the neighbors, each on his or her side of the wall, walking the line together piling stone on stone after each hard winter.

I, however, would like to argue that good neighbors exist regardless of the state of the fences that separate them.

As the resident of a townhouse, walls are generally all that separate me from my neighbors. Thankfully, my neighbors and I get along. At least I like to think we do….

Take my neighbor with whom I have an adjoining deck. For a long while, we had a lack-of-privacy fence between us. Granted, it was supposed to be a privacy fence, but it failed miserably at that job. In fact, the fence actually rotted and began to fall apart. For two-plus years, there was a large hole—at adult eye level—which allowed us to chat without looking around the fence by leaning on the railing. If I stepped out my door, I would often hear, “Howdy, Neighbor!” and a lengthy conversation would ensue through the hole in the fence.

The new privacy fence, rebuilt earlier this season, has just enough space between the slats to allow for partial view from one deck to the other. There certainly is no true “privacy.” As we often say, it’s good we like each other!

On the other side of our house, our former neighbors had two little girls. While our decks were not joined, we did have a more effective privacy fence separating us. But that didn’t stop the girls. If they heard us on our deck eating dinner, they would lean over the railing and engage us in entertaining conversation. It usually started something like this:

“Are you eating dinner?” one would ask. And when we replied with the affirmative, the conversation would continue. “What are you eating? Are you almost done? I have sand in my shoes from the sandbox. Wanna see it?” On a crazier night, one might announce from just behind the fence, “I’m naked. Is that embarrassing you?”

Perhaps it’s true that good fences make good neighbors. But bad fences make better neighbors. Honestly, who needs fences anyway? I suppose I might need a good fence if I had bad neighbors.

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[Image is a photo of our privacy fence, stealthily snapped out my back door so my neighbors wouldn’t think I was creepily stalking them. Clearly, “privacy” is not the strong point of this fence.]

Summer

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Today was the official last day of school, though only one of my children actually had to attend school. The high school finished up last week, with today set aside for students who needed to take make-up exams. The middle school—and lower grade students—had a half-day of school today. The last day.

When my son came home from school at 11:40 this morning, my daughter looked at him, confused. “Where did you go today?” she asked him.

He looked at her, a steady, blink-less stare, as if to say, Really? But he turned and walked away without saying a word.

Today is the first official day of summer, and my house is full of teenagers. A pile of shoes greets anyone who dares to enter the house. I think my boyfriend and I—both seasoned educators of teens—are the only ones who dare. The parents who arrived for drop-off and pick up waved tentatively from their cars.

Giggling, laughing, screaming, some piano playing, a bit of singing, chatting, and a lot of texting were the activities of the day. Swimming, pizza, and more laughing and giggling were sprinkled in for good measure.

Because I reside in a townhouse and share walls with others, I warned my neighbors of my houseful of teenagers. They didn’t seem to mind. Then again, it is only the first official day of summer….

Meanwhile, I sit at my kitchen table trying to complete the day’s work. Over the years, I have learned to navigate the noise and commotion of children in the house while I work. Because in the summer, I work from home. My crazy home.

Over the years, little has changed. Friends have come and gone. Voices have grown deeper and the shoes… they have grown bigger.

It’s officially summer. Welcome to my crazy home. Hopefully, the pile of shoes at the door won’t scare you.

 

Daily prompt: summer

Fearsome Felines and the Food Chain #atozchallenge

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It seems the local food chain experienced a bit of a shake down this afternoon.

One of my three felines—the only one who goes outside—is a formidable force in keeping the local rodent population to a reasonable level. In fact, the chipmunk population has considerably decreased since he started going outside, and I imagine the mouse population has too, based on the body count. Nearly every day, he leaves the gift of his most recent victim on the walkway where I will be sure to see it when I arrive home.

Today, my neighbor stopped me as I drove onto the street. She informed me that a coyote was seen crossing our street midday on Tuesday. It seems my fearless feline has fallen from his position as king of the food chain. Now, if he happens to escape the safe confines of our house, he will have to navigate the neighborhood in fear.